JoAnna Lou
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The Danger of E-Fences
Texas dog picked up by animal control despite e-fence

I’m not a big fan of electronic or underground fences, though I realize some people may not have a good alternative. Besides the potential for being shocked, these containment systems come with several other risks. 

Some dogs learn that putting up with a brief electronic shock can result in freedom if they run through. And even if the fence keeps your dog contained, it doesn’t do anything to prevent dangerous animals or people from coming into your yard.

Earlier this month, a dog was picked up by Dallas animal control when someone complained that the dogs were running loose. It turns out that the Springer Spaniels are enclosed by an invisible fence. Whether or not the fence was malfunctioning (this was a point of contention in the case), the fact of the matter is that leaving your dogs in an open yard unattended can put them at risk.

What’s your take?



JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by Kain Road Cul de Sac/flickr.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Carolyn | November 18 2010 |

In the summer, I walk my leashed dog in a neighborhood with lots of e-fenced dogs. Many of them are fence runners, barking frantically to get at us. Even though they seem to respect exactly where the boundary is, I'm always afraid that one of them will burst through. I've also thought it was a shame that, if friendly, the dogs could sniff noses through a chain-link (for example) fence. Not the case for e-fenced dogs! I also wonder about theft. Personally, I would never consider e-fencing.

Submitted by adam | November 18 2010 |

It's a tough decision really. I don't currently have an E-fence, but I live in a duplex where we have an enormous yard that to fence would be near impossible, and mostly a waste of money. It seems like such a waste to have all that space yet not be able to let my pup run free. She has a really long lead but still.
I'm doing my research, and for my situation seems like it might actually be a positive thing.

Submitted by Virginia | November 19 2010 |

The problem I find is that dogs in electric fences will cross the boundary if there is something interesting enough to motivate them, and then be afraid to cross back in.

I was walking my dog yesterday when a neighbor's dog crossed the E-fence line and started following us, but was walking in the middle of the street. Every so often I would stop walking and he would head back home, but he'd stop short at the line to cross back into the fence line. Finally I used some training treats in my pocket to get him to cross back over, but it was stressful and dangerous for him to be wandering in the street like that.

His owners weren't home.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 23 2010 |

I'm not a fan of the e fence. As a trainer I find that it can lead to all kinds of behavior issues. But if one does need to use an e fence, the dog should never be left unattended.

Submitted by Kachadurian | November 23 2010 |

My dog, Bissell grew up in a small lot with a fence. When we moved out of the city he was much happier when he ran free in our large wooded lot. Our new home was in a rural area with very few and dog-friendly neighbors and almost no traffic. He played with other neighborhood dogs. All was good until something happened. My dog came home with a cut on his shoulder and a lead pellet in his back.

After I got over the initial rage that one of my neighbors would take a shot at a friendly 20 pound dog rather than just giving me a call, I decided it was time to keep him in the yard.

There were three choices: leash, fence or e-fence. Life on a tether is no life at all for an active dog. I could have put up a fence for the small part of my yard that has a lawn and restricted him to watching the woods he once played it.

For a little over $1,000 I was able to put an e-fence around my entire one acre. I was so torn about the shock notion that I insisted on doing all the training myself. Bissell's a fast learner and trusts me to give him good advice, so after only two shocks, when I told him "careful" he knew exactly where his limit was. In two years now he's activated the fence only twice (once running after a deer that wandered by our yard). With a regular fence my children would have left the gate open more often that that.

The e-fence has become so much a part of his routine that when we get home from a walk outside the fence with his non-electric collar he waits until I change him into his e-collar before he bounds up the hill to see if anything changed in our yard while we was gone.

He is a safe and happy dog now. He can sleep in the sun on the driveway. He can chase chipmunks into the woods. He can play outside with my children. He has hills to wander up and down.

The key to an e-fence is the same as anything else with a dog. It's your responsibility to make it work. Good training and a concern for your pet's well-being are all it takes.

Submitted by Mark Heber | December 4 2010 |

There are places where electronic fences are useful and appropriate but an urban environment is not one of them. In a rural area or on a camping trip with well trained dogs, the invisible fence can be useful but for full-time containment in the city or the country, a fence is the best way to keep your dogs safe and safely on the property.

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